Hello all! James Bond has indeed returned, this time in Human Bondage‘s discussion of The Man With the Golden Gun, where Roger Moore, armed only with a Walther PPK, spurs with Christopher Lee’s third nipple. Elliot Chapman is our guest this month, and as always he’s dazzling and charming and enchanting, and bafflingly willing to put up with our nonsense. We’ve got a great show for you, as always, and as always HUMAN BONDAGE WILL RETURN.…
As I said on Twitter, that was more or less the shambolic hoot I had hoped for. A rollicking, incoherent, dumb, infuriating, joyful, and exhilarating mess. Fukunaga, Craig, et al identify and transmit the pleasures of Bond films while gesturing at bolder things, and sometimes even clutching them, while grounding their work in the mindless but alluring celebration of British imperialist surveillance and sabotage that Bond and Fleming embody. In short, it’s a James Bond movie, with all the delights and vices that epitomizes.
The heart of that agony and ecstasy is the departure of Daniel Craig, whose meaning and impact on future movies any review of No Time to Die worth its salt has to decrypt. Craig has crafted self-evidently cinema’s finest James Bond portrayal, constantly asking “what if this character were actually a human being?” and being personally responsible for much of the character’s story (Craig has co-producer credits on Spectre and No Time to Die, and apparently had greater creative control of his last Bond film). The films that have resulted have been a strange and often poorly fused mess of differing filmmaking styles and aesthetic values, but with a brilliant lead actor at their center crafting a compellingly fucked up character out of one of the most oversignified characters in cinema.
Naturally Craig’s departure is celebratory, buying that James Bond is a good thing for the world, so that his departure is sad yet triumphant. His imperialist project is accordingly celebrated, with some repudiation of Bond’s earlier rape culture tendencies in the form of neoliberal feminism (James Bond enforces manufactured consent. Shocking. Positively shocking). Ideological coherence is largely irrelevant to this; after five movies, Craig’s departure is deeply moving.
And the movie sells Craig’s departure shockingly well. There are appropriate callbacks to previous movies, particularly Casino Royale and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Fukunaga seems to have taken inspiration from the “grounded/down-to-earth” Bonds (the ones where Bond gets a few scratches from explosions rather than none at all). In tying itself to Casino Royale and OHMSS (still the unruliest title ever) through callbacks to Vesper and several OHMSS soundtrack cues, No Time to Die plugs itself into the tradition of movies that traumatize Bond. Some early scenes made me think the movie was headed towards a Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace-esque characterization of Bond as a fucked up, neurotic mass of flesh, booze, and thanatos. That tendency dissipates as the movie progresses, with mixed results; depending on the scene, Bond is either a tender man seeking redemption or a stone-cold assassin. The two aren’t irreconcilable (I say this as someone who has in the past experienced personal kindness from high-profile members of the fucking Iraq Survey Group), and Craig sells both, but the rewrites, delays, and sheer number of writers who contributed to this script are felt heavily.
And yet the discordance does the movie some favors. For one thing, it deemphasizes Bond in his own movie; the opening scene (at least after the gunbarrel shot, Craig’s only gunbarrel to kickstart a movie) and the ending both center Léa Seydoux’s Madeleine Swann, who the movie salvages into an actual character with interiority and commonalities with Bond after her role in Spectre as “Bond girl whose dad Bond shot and kidnapped 2-3 movies ago”.…
Hi, y’all! It’s me. Sorry for my absence. Returning to college has been wild. Taking a year off to focus on my mental health and healing from a glut of trauma means a slightly longer adjustment period as I’m starting my Bachelor’s degree. I’ve also been on the ground monitoring Turning Point USA and local fascist groups, which you may have seen on my Twitter. The Erebor posts are taking longer than I expected too (that place takes a while to write about), but I’ll try to release those back-to-back soon.
In James Bond-related news, this month Human Bondage is back in a tragically James-free edition (Mr. Slater-Murphy was out of action that night). Kit and I are joined by our friend Miranda, previously an Eruditorum Presscast guest, to talk about Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s bizarre blaxploitation debut as James Bond 007. We’re so happy to be done with Sean Connery, but we’re even happier to have Miranda on. She’s brilliant and hilarious and has never seen a James Bond movie before, which leads to some of the most insightful commentary this show has ever had and also some hilarious dunking on our gringo asses. Miranda and I also make Kit feel extremely old, and the results are hysterical. This is a really great show, and we all loved recording it.
Check out Miranda’s DeviantArt if you like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, by the way. There’s some talk about that in the show, much to Kit’s confusion as he audibly ages out of existence.…
Last month we uploaded our On Her Majesty’s Secret Service show. As always, Kit, James, and I had a lot of fun, and you should check it out. Alas for Eruditorum Press-only readers, someone neglected to update the site that we’d put up a new episode (it may have been your favorite trans Christian hippie Tolkien scholar. We’ll never know). We actually seemed to like the movie on the whole, for probably the first time since Kit and I talked From Russia With Love. About 80% of that is down to Diana Rigg, aka the best goddamn part of a Bond movie ever, so there’s plenty of Tracy Bond adulation. Trigger warnings apply, as always.
And this week we’re releasing our Diamonds Are Forevershow! In it we talk Connery’s second and last swansong as Bond (yes, it is, go fuck yourself). Las Vegas, stupid plotting, cute rats, and Peter Griffin make appearances. It’s also James’ favorite podcast in recent memory, so bear that in mind. You lucky people have two Human Bondage shows to listen to if you haven’t heard one! We hope listening to it brings you as much delight as we experienced recording it.
Human Bondage will return next month with Live and Let Die, where the Bondage crew are joined by my delightful friend Miranda, who you might remember from the last Eruditorum Presscast. We run a good show. Have fun with it.…
After a (Jesus) 7-month hiatus, Of Human Bondage, or Human Bondage as we’re rebranding it, is back. Kit and I have functionally rebooted the project, with a co-host lineup change, new theme music, and losing the preposition. Otherwise it’s the same show, and Kit and I are still cracking jokes and being insightful about James Bond movies. We’re pleased to announce that our friend James Slater-Murphy of Pex Lives celebrity has joined us for our grilling of You Only Live Twice, an execrable piece of anti-Japanese schlock that we nonetheless have a lovely conversation about. As always we include a content warning, particularly for the troubling 10-minute segment at the head of the show, but afterwards things go quite smoothly. We hope you enjoy the show at least once; or even twice, to match your number of lives. …
The last episode of The Blacklist was hilarious. Red describes an international cabal – comprised of people in government and the private sector – who run the world behind the scenes, start wars, control the media, kill to protect their power, etc. It’s supposed to be so edgy. Dark, terrifying conspiracy. He has to get loads of investigate journos to attend his briefing in secret. They’re all stunned by what he says. But… he’s just describing the ruling class! Seriously, the ‘Cabal’ is just the capitalist military-industrial-media-government complex. But we’re supposed to be shocked by the existence of this group. Once informed about it, the Washington Post runs a front page story telling everyone of the breaking news. SHOCK NEW REVELATION: SMALL NUMBER OF POWERFUL PEOPLE ARE POWERFUL AND GET UP TO STUFF FURTHERING THEIR OWN POWER WITHOUT TELLING US! The evil director of the CIA looks at the paper in horror, like he’s thinking “oh no, now everyone knows!” It’s like structuring the big, dramatic denouement of a drama series around the astonishing revelation that water is wet, and having all your characters suddenly back away in terror from any rivers or taps they happen to be standing next to.
On the other hand, I can’t help thinking this is still more charged than a story in which such facts of life are ignored. Even presented as an outlandish, shocking revelation, it’s still presented. Even framed as a surprise, it’s still there.
Reminds me of the best Bond film ever, Quantum of Solace, in which a bunch of corporations, eco-businesses, military hardmen and Western politicians are presented as members of a secret criminal cartel who are trying to take over Bolivia’s water reserves. Now this basically happened in the real world. The film depicts it as an evil secret conspiracy that MI6 wants to stop. It also depicts Quantum as sneakily damming up loads of water to create an artificial shortage. But it basically connects with the real world, albeit distantly. It’s far more connected to the real world than anything in the follow-up movie Skyfall (which is total shit, by the way, both politically and as entertainment). Quantum of Solace also connects with the idea that powerful Western interests are behind politically-motivated Right-wing coups in South America… which is just one of those things that any sensible person takes for granted as an established historical truth, but which the mainstream media treats as a bizarre revelation. But Quantum of Solace at least acknowledges it. The movie puts the evil secret conspiratorial organisation behind such things rather than, y’know, the CIA and the US government… though it does have the CIA complicit in Quantum’s machinations, even if it is because one CIA guy is a rotten apple.
Is this subversive? Of course not. It’s gatekeeping. It acknowledges things about the real world that people either know about or strongly suspect. It then packages them in the classic methods of containment of such incendiary truths. Bad Apple Theory. …
You know the pre-titles sequence in For Your Eyes Only, in which Blofeld tricks Bond onto a remote-controlled helicopter?
Why does the vicar make the sign of the cross as Bond departs in the chopper?
If he knows something deadly is afoot, he must be in league with Blofeld, so either…
a) he’s not really a vicar but actually one of Blofeld’s men disguised as a vicar, or
b) he is an actual vicar who’s been paid by Blofeld to be part of his assassination conspiracy.
If a), why? And why doesn’t Bond ask about this new guy at the Church where Tracey is buried?
If b), why? What would induce a presumably average, ordinary, law-abiding vicar to team up with Blofeld? And also, why doesn’t he just shoot Bond in the graveyard?
And what does Blofeld need him for? Okay, he delivers the fake message about Bond being needed at HQ. But this is seemingly the only thing he does in the conspiracy (if he is indeed part of the conspiracy, as opposed to an innocent vicar who unwittingly relays a fake message) but the message could have been far more easily faked, given the apparent laxity of Bond’s precautions (he just accepts the message at face value without checking it in any way).
And I repeat: if he’s not a real vicar, why the religious sentiment with the sign of the cross?
And even if he is a real vicar, but an evil one who conspires to murder people with international gangsters, why is he still worried about giving Bond the last rites?
He’s either a genuine vicar with terrorist-connections and a deeply ambivalent and wildly fluctuating attitude to his faith, or a hood with a very dark sense of humour… and possibly a sardonic vein of anti-clericalism in his character.
Or… another possibility entirely… he’s a genuine vicar with the gift of second sight and a fatalistic attitude to the future.
Or he’s a genuine (if morally weak) vicar with the gift of second sight, and he hates James Bond for some reason… so much so that he opportunistically chooses to let Bond go to his death.
Or possibly he hates the helicopter pilot for some reason and opportunistically chooses to let him die.
That actually makes a lot more sense because, if he can see the future, that must mean that he knows that Bond will escape the trap and only the pilot and Blofeld will die. (It can’t be that he hates Blofeld because Blofeld isn’t there when he – the vicar – makes the sign of the cross, so there’d be no point.)
The only problem here is the implausibility of a specific guy who that particular vicar hates just happening to turn up at the vicar’s church in a helicopter on the day when he’s about to be murdered by Blofeld as part of an assassination conspiracy… but coincidences do happen.
As far as I can tell, this is by far the best explanation.…